Believe what you will regarding Lotus F1’s testing pace in the hands of Pastor Maldonado but the fact is, the topic we debate today is markedly different from one year ago.
Lotus set the fastest pace on day 3 while punishing the Barcelona circuit with 104 laps. The pace was three-tenths off F1’s newest rookie, Max Verstappen, in a Toro Rosso.
Ultimately we treat testing as a snapshot in time. Much like we would when we run a YTD P&L report in a business. It’s not indicative of anything other than that particular moment in time with the elements arranged as they were in that specific moment.
In the case of Lotus, a Mercedes engine, aero kit set for 2015, a chassis balanced (or not) and a driver running a studious development and testing program designed to help the team asses hundreds of components and performances of the car they’ve created.
Freezing time is one method of getting a look at something in its entirety but not without context—a photo shot exactly at the right moment or a stopwatch clicked as a car crosses the line. Behind that moment can be much of what we mean when we use the dog-eared colloquialism that a picture is worth a thousand words.
If we consider the Mercedes engine as the grand equalizer between the works team, Williams, Force India and now Lotus, we have to make some assumptions as to why the Mercedes works team was faster than equally-powered teams in 2014. The Ross Brawn/Paddy Lowe factor has to be applied to the snapshot and this starts to add a few hundred words to the 1,000 that we’re looking for in this picture.
Let me share another moment in time with you. The year was 2006 and the clock stopped on a Renault car that just claimed its second world title with Fernando Alonso at the wheel. Serious shove from the Renault engine and the rest is down to the story or words we look for in this particular picture.
Here is why I think the Lotus testing performance is a picture that could be a lexicon worth reading as we divine the 1,000 words that describe context of this picture. This team knows how to build a car! They know how to win and they didn’t forget or lose all of their gray matter since 2006.
I’m convinced that the 2015 season could be a resurgent time for Lotus F1 in the capable hands of Romain Grosjean and if Pastor Maldonado is keen to put his critics in their place, he could mount a tidy charge back up the grid where Lotus once resided in 2013.
I’m not advocating that Lotus F1 will win the world championship in 2015 but I am suggesting that things may have taken a very positive turn for the team and if the engine is there, the team know how to build a car and win. Much of F1’s now-banned trick engineering originated in the Enstone factory—FRIC, Mass or J-dampers etc. I’d love to see Lotus F1 experience resurgence so we can get some serious competition at the front of the grid but I’ll be patient. It could take a season or two for them to get their minds around the lump they’re working with—in short, it takes time and isn’t that merely a snapshot worth a thousand words?